On 2 January 1945 the General der Aufklärungsflieger noted in his diary the Führungsstab’s (Air Staff) decision that 1.(F)/100 should support Army Group G on the Western Front, based in Biblis with Kommando Hecht. Its transfer could be carried out from the 15th and meanwhile it was decided to subordinate the Ar 234 Staffeln in the West to FAG 123 under Maj. Taubert (formerly Kommandeur of FAG 1).
The 1.(F)/100 had been flying Ju 88s and 188s in the East. In September 1944 it relinquished all its aircraft but it was not until December, in Jüterbog-Waldlager, that it received its first three Ar 234s. Elements of its photographic platoon had reached Kdo. Hecht by the 29th of that month and the rest were expected to arrive by rail.
(For more details on the origins and inter-relationships of the Ar 234 reconnaissance units see here).
At 16.30 GMT on 13 January, an aerodrome (thought by the Allies to be Rheine) reported that two Arados had arrived and would continue to Biblis early next morning, with the weather at the latter being checked at 06.30 hrs. To judge by the number of signals exchanged on the 14th, this transfer needed careful orchestration:
Kommando Hecht duly reported a strength of three pilots that following afternoon, adding that none of its aircraft was ready for operations (which may indicate that T9+EH had developed a fault during its 12 minutes aloft on the 14th). A day later, Hecht noted the addition of two Ar 234s of 1.(F)/100 to its strength, so by the evening of the 15th the Kommando consisted of three pilots (all operational) and the following aircraft:
There was bad weather on the 15th and Sommer was the only one to fly on 16 January. In T9+EH, he was airborne from 13.31–14.44 hrs. on a photo-reconnaissance of Luxembourg – Arlon – Longwy – Thionville – Metz – Salzburgen. He encountered allied fighters shortly before landing but escaped without damage.
At 11.00 hrs. on the 20th, Ofw. Heibutzki took off in T5+HH but unbroken mist and approaching cloud aborted his photographic mission. Kommando Hecht was also advised that "In case you are travelling to Limburg, wait for Mähnhardt there. He is arriving at about 19.00 hrs." Oberleutnant Mähnhard would later be involved in establishing Kdo. Sommer in Italy.
Next morning the Gen.d.A. noted that 1.(F)/100’s ground echelons had now arrived in Biblis; also that day, T5+EH was re-marked as T5+BH (perhaps to avoid having two EH’s in one unit).
On 23 January, a deciphered message referred to a T5+CH flown by Ltn. Franz and the T5+GH of Ltn. Schnabel. The third machine mentioned, flown by Ltn. Zeeb, was marked K7+AL. We cannot be certain that this was an Ar 234 but it is possible that the former 3.(F)/Nacht had received and marked the aircraft before becoming 1.(F)/123. By the next afternoon Kdo. Hecht was reporting T5+BH unserviceable but T5+CH, GH and HH ready for ops. alongside T9+EH and K7+AL. The total stayed the same for the next few days with the usual variations in individual serviceability, then on the 28th Hecht clarified that one of its machines was owned by Versuchsverband OKL and five by 1.(F)/100 (incidentally confirming to Bletchley Park that T5 was the latter’s code).
Meanwhile, on the 25th, Kdo. Hecht had taken a photo-mosaic of Luxembourg from 8,000 m. and carried out a visual recce of roads between Saverne, Metz and Koenigsmacker. For his part, Erich Sommer spent 30 minutes orbiting Antwerp in T9+EH, watching for the fall of V-2s. His communications with the launch crew were "excellent" and they had declared their readiness to fire before his arrival over the city but in the event neither rockets nor an explanation for their absence were fortchoming.
Two days later the Kommando apparently had orders for:
a photo-mosaic of Grevenmacher, Luxembourg, Koenigsmacker and Merzig to look for indications of an Allied attack between Grevenmacher and Remich (a 20 km. stretch of the Luxembourgeois/German border);
photography of roads through Metz, Château Salins, Sarrebourg and Saverne to establish the state of traffic there; and
a photo-strip of the roads Bastogne – Liège – Aywaille – Houffalize and Bastogne – St. Vith – Malmédy – Eupen – Aachen – Liège, to ascertain enemy movements.
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Article © Nick Beale 2011–2012